As Fashion Week rolls across Europe, this week with a stop in Milan, I have come across numerous news stories highlighting the importance of supply chain operations to the fashion industry. I am not much of a fashion guy: my colleagues can surely attest to that, based on my limited collection of hoodies and T-shirts. I am however a supply chain guy, and the amount of transparency some fashion companies are bringing into their supply chain processes is impressive. It shows that the industry is taking action against accusations of its “muddy” supply chain processes. Calls for more sustainable and responsible production and consumption within the industry are echoing across the halls of Fashion Week:
Orsola de Castro – fashion designer and co-founder of Fashion Revolution: “Demand quality, not just in the product you buy, but in the life of the person who made it”
Vivienne Westwood – English fashion designer, known for taking modern punk and new wave fashion Mainstream: “Buy less, choose well and make it last. I just think people should invest in the world. Don’t invest in fashion, but invest in the world.”
As featured in our last Transparent Tuesday installment, brands are beginning to bank on the line, “People Care When They Know”, which refers to a new level of openness regarding the oft-hidden processes of logistics and supply chain. Here are a couple examples:
Zady launches new line
This past week, my attention was once again drawn to the fashion brand Zady. On September 24th, the Ecommerce business, which focuses on selling brands that place an emphasis on supply chain transparency and ethical consumerism, announced the extension of its own “Essentials Collection” which will include a full line of clothing for women.
The Zady story began in 2013, when co-founders Soraya Darabi and Maxine Bédat capitalized on their interest for fashion, supply chain transparency and product traceability. It all began with a sweater:
A quick look at the Zady website shows detailed information about each step of the supply chain process:
- Material Selection and Ranching in Oregon
- Cleaning in South Carolina
- Dyeing in Pennsylvania
- Spinning also in Pennsylvania
- Knitting in California
Each supply chain partner responsible for the aforementioned steps is presented on the site, and their environmental and ethical operation practices are highlighted, leaving no doubt as to where and how the Essentials Sweater is sourced and produced. While Zady remains tight-lipped on profit figures, the company has recognized significant increases in email subscriptions and notes a positive trend in order sizes. There has also been no shortage of interest from investors.
Pachacuti: Who made your hat?
Pachacuti is no newcomer to the ethical consumerism movement within the fashion industry. Back in 2009, Pachacuti, which produces Panama Hats, was identified as a fair trade pioneer within the fashion industry as it became the world’s first company to have all of its products labeled as “Certified Fair Trade and Sustainable”.
In a recent, very timely piece on the Huffington Post, Carry Somers, founder of Pachacuti and the Fashion Revolution, details the level of work associated with the implementation of product traceability. Production in remote areas, for example, can lead to difficulties in pinpointing where a hat, or other article, was actually made. However, the effort seems to be paying off as more and more people are asking the question “#WhoMadeMyClothes”. Being able to answer this question requires a significant amount of time and effort.
Somers made an excellent point in her article that companies from various industries, not just fashion, should consider before jumping on the transparency bandwagon: She reminds readers that transparency encompasses a lot more than just product traceability. Other aspects include:
With this holistic approach to supply chain transparency, Pachacuti continues to be at the forefront of a, to date, rather successful revolution within the fashion industry. Further success will hinge on #3 in the list above: communication. Generating awareness and consumer interest for these transparency campaigns and ethically made fashion lines must be a priority. At the other end of the spectrum, an open and honest line of communication with all suppliers and other participants within the chain is vital, as a scandal would quickly bring down the company.
Zady and Pachacuti are not alone in their efforts to make fashion supply chains more transparent and sustainable, hence the title of the article. There is a clear industry trend in this direction. Earlier this year, Marks&Spencer announced plans to make its clothing supply chain more transparent. Everlane, an online retailer selling affordable clothing and accessories, operates under “radical transparency” and encourages website visitors to “Know your factories. Know your costs. Always ask why.” We are seeing numerous small label fashion lines pop up promoting the message of supply chain transparency. It appears as if this level of radical openness can work, however the advice from Pachacuti’s Carry Somers cannot be ignored: in order to ensure success in supply chain transparency, a lot more is required than just product traceability. You can’t just talk the transparency talk. You also have to be willing to go all out and walk the walk, and a high level of openness, honesty, communication and accountability must be included in the transparency strategy.